Low-Status Leaders Are Ignored, Researchers Find; How a Leader Is Picked Impacts Whether Others Will Follow
ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2010) — People who are deemed social misfits or “losers” aren’t effective leaders, even if they are crusading for a cause that would benefit a larger group, according to new research from Rice University, the University of Texas and Universitat de Valencia.
The study’s authors observed the contributions of 80 participants in a repeated public-goods game and found that players were more likely to mimic the actions of a leader they perceived as a high-status individual; they ignored leaders perceived as low-status and, when they had a chance, punished them for trying to lead.
“In a team, naming someone a leader is not sufficient to create effective leadership,” said Rick Wilson, co-author of the study and professor of political science and statistics and psychology at Rice. “The status of the leader — the way in which the leader is chosen — determines the extent to which the rest of the subjects will follow.”